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Solar Street Light vs Electrical Street Light
- Feb 05, 2018 -

Solar Street Light vs Electrical Street Light: Fight!


There doesn’t seem to be many differences between a solar powered light and a standard electrical light, right? Wrong! The only thing they share in common is both provide some form of light. There are many differences which we will cover below. Let’s see who the winner is.

Round 1: Environmental Impact

Standard electric uses grid power that is typically generated from nonrenewable energy sources. The power produces CO2 that is harmful to the environment and the sources of the energy can never be replenished. The lights also typically use metal halide or high pressure sodium lamps which contain mercury which is toxic to the environment. They also need to be changed at regular intervals since the lamp lasts from 6,000 hours to 12,000 hours.

Solar powered street lights use power from one of the most prominent renewable energy sources; the sun. They provide the same lighting as a standard electrical light, but receive their energy during the day, which is stored in a battery for utilization at night. They do not produce harmful CO2 and the energy used at night is replenished every day. Best of all, most solar street light systems use LED fixtures which do not contain mercury and have a much longer life span than any lamp on the market today.

Round 2: Visibility

Metal halide and high pressure sodium lamps provide a much lower CRI (color rendering index) and does not provide the type of lighting our eyes require to distinguish colors. The light tends to be more yellow and difficult to see with. Metal halide lamps provide a standard CRI of 60 and high pressure sodium lamps have a CRI of 25. The sun has a CRI of 100 which is why we can see shapes and colors so well during the day.

Street lights using LED fixtures and solar power have a standard CRI of 66, but LED’s can be colored to match just about any CRI. They provide better visibility at night by being closest to sunlight provided by a high powered lamp. The LEDs can also be task specific directed with multiple distribution patterns available. This allows for less light pollution into surrounding areas and increased efficiency where the light is needed.

Round 3: Cost

Standard electrical street lights are much cheaper for initial purchase, but if you add up all the underlying costs over time, they tend to be much more expensive. A typical high pressure sodium street light cost about $1,350.00 for the pole, fixture, and mounting bracket, but installation costs for setting the pole and running the electrical can cost upwards of $4,250.00 and that doesn’t even include the first months’ electric bill. With today’s rates this will cost over $5,500.00 over the course of 25 years per light.

A solar street light costs anywhere from $2,000.00 to $7,000.00 depending on the needs of the system. If the system is using higher powered LED fixtures and is located in upstate New York, the system will be on the higher end, but if the light is a standard LED fixture located in Southern California, the solar power assembly can be much smaller putting it on the lower end of the price scale. But for this fight let’s go with a middle of the road system costing around $4,750.00. Just this price alone saves 25 years of electrical costs and doesn’t require difficult and costly installation. The system costs all upfront costs of standard electrical lights and pretty much nothing else; the power is free!

After looking at all the positive aspects of using a solar street light versus a standard electrical street light, it is clear who the winner is. Solar lights provide a better environment, increase visibility and save money on electrical and installation costs. While solar power is not always the perfect fit for every project, it has tremendous potential to save money and benefit the environment.  Talk to a solar lighting specialist to determine the feasibility of off-grid solar power for your street lighting project.

What other comparison can you make between solar and electric?